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Feature Articles - Aging


Helpful hints for eating well as we age

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension

MyPlate for Older Adults symbol, from Tufts University

Tufts University’s USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging released a new version of the MyPlate nutrition guidance symbol focusing on ways older adults can manage a healthy eating plan.


The MyPlate symbol, released by USDA in the summer of 2011, visually represents the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in general. Tufts’ new symbol, MyPlate for Older Adults, has some key differences that older adults can focus on. As we age, calorie needs decrease, but nutrient needs stay the same or increase. So it is critical for good health to get the most out of what we eat.


The original MyPlate symbol simply shows the food groups and their relative proportionality on a circular graphic representing a plate. The MyPlate for Older Adults symbol includes examples of foods from each group that follow the recommended lower intake of added sugar, fat and salt. It also includes visual reminders of other tips to help older adults make healthy eating choices.


The fruit and vegetable groups show pictures of fresh produce with vibrant colors that are loaded with nutrients: dark greens, deeply colored berries and fresh sweet potatoes. It also shows low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruit in its own juice. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are often lower in price and sometimes the same or higher in nutrients as fresh.


The grain section shows several options for whole grain, enriched and fortified grain foods because these can carry a more powerful nutrient punch for the calories they provide.


The fourth quarter of the plate combines low- or non-fat dairy foods and plant source protein foods as well as lean meats and fish.


On the regular MyPlate symbol, the dairy group is indicated in a smaller circle next to the plate. For older adults, this smaller circle includes a variety of liquids. Examples shown include water, tea, juice, milk and soup because “common, age-related decline in thirst can put older adults at risk for dehydration,” according to Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (February 2012).


Unique to this symbol, the graphic also shows physical activities as a reminder to keep moving as we age. Strengthening exercises as well as aerobic activity, like walking, are important for feeling good and maintaining good health.


Refer to the article featured in TuftsNow about the release of MyPlate for Older Adults for more information and to see a larger version of the symbol.


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